The Maze Author (MA) Tutorial

The Maze Author (MA) is an authoring system that produces learning enviorments that are based on the S-AI-L (Simulated, Adventure Inspired, Learning) Instructional Design model (Yaniv, 2008).

Note: The current MA is working well, but it’s not the way it would look eventually. The user interface will change significantly in the near future. This version will do for now, as it’s simple to use and fully functional. All stories produced with this version will be fully compatible with the new one.

MA produces 3 types of Mazes:

  • The Real Maze


An Example of a Real Maze at the Calgary Military Museums

The Real Maze is a 16 computers and a server network that can be set up in every school, museum, training center, etc.

As you can see from the above picture, the Calgary Military Museum is set using 52″ screens for the Media Walls with Mimio touch devices (8 each) and 32″ touch screens on wooden podiums (8 each) for the Decision Points. The audio system is based on wireless infrared headsets. Something you can’t see here are the curtains separating the chambers, making  it into a real labyrinth of chambers and corridors. This kind of a maze is an investment, expected of public institutions. The same kind of a maze can be contracted in every school with the use of HP TouchSmart computers (24″) for both Media Walls and Decision Points and cardboard partitions in a classroom or a computer lab (see the specification sheet for Real Maze Construction that will be available soon).

With MA (Maze Author) being suited for unskilled authoring, children in any school (grades 4 and above and maybe younger) can be trained to author maze stories in any curricular topic and practice “Learning by Design” – the highest form of learning.

  • The Second Life Maze

All Real Maze stories are compatible with one type of the Second Life (SL) Maze in KnoWorld Island. The other type (the Holodeck Maze) is a unique feature of the SL Maze as it is based on Virtual Reality technologies, so maze stories that were built for the Holodeck Maze will not be compatible with the Real Maze.


An example of a Holodeck Maze Scene

  • The Web Maze

The Web Maze is a single screen maze. It allows running the Real Maze and SL Maze stories as a website. This of course, limits the learner experience but can be used to test and debug stories before the final production.

The MA System

MA is totally web-based. As of today, MA runs on FireFox’s latest version and requires VLC media player’s latest version and an high-speed Internet connection.

For your pilot phase (the initial stories you produce to test the system), you are most welcome to use our server at the University Of Calgary’s Knowledge Design Lab (KDL). Once you decide on a larger scale implementation we will be happy to provide you with the server software and all the support you will need to install it.

Logging in as an Author

Open Firefox and go to:

1. Once you are logged in, you will see the story manager:


2. The story manager shows the stories you’ve been working on. Let’s create a new one:


3. Each story has an Introduction and a Conclusion. You can add up to 8 “tasks” in between. Each of the “tasks” including the Introduction and the Conclusion can hold an unlimited number of “slides” arranged as a “SlideShow”. We will begin with entering the story details, than start authoring the introduction.

4. Click on Story Details and fill in as much information as you can. You will be able to add to this form at any future time.


5. You need to know enough about the maze before you can author and design a story. For example, you need to know what are “Story Roles” in order to decide if there will be roles in this story and what the should be. To learn more about the maze, it is strongly recommended that you will follow “How to Visit KnoWorld Tutorial“.

6. Once finished with the details, you will click “Return to Story” to keep working on your design.

You will find yourself in the Story Timeline again.

7. Clicking on the “Introduction” Slide will get you to the Introduction Slideshow:

intonewssThere are two types of slides you can add:

“Standard” and “HTML”.

Standard slide can contain pictures as background, and sound in the background. “HotSpots” (touch areas on the image) can be defined and link to movies, text bubbles, inset images, audio, etc…

A slide can call a “holodeck” set. The holodeck is available only in the Second Life version of the Maze in Hangars 5-8 of KnoWorld Island.

The “HTML Slide” is a web-page. This option is still under construction and will enable the creation of web-pages with links to other websites. If you try to add an HTML slide now, you will get the editor and you can test it, but you can’t save anything (there is a warning about that). Once this warning is gone, the HTML slide will be fully functional.

8. You want to “Add Standard Slide”.


9. You are now in the Slide Editor to edit the first slide in the introduction:

You see the title? “Intorduction Slide Definition”. Here you can start adding media to the slide.

10. First, we add the Base (Background) image. Click on “Select Base Image”:


What you see is a library of images already loaded into this story. In a new story, there shouldn’t be any and you will have to add the first one. Click on “Browse” and upload an image you want to use as the first image.

Some notes about resolution:

The Real Maze works in two modes: The Media Wall 1920×1080 and the Decision Point 1380×768. All pictures are converted to these resolutions by MA, so you need to make sure that you have high resolution pictures if you want the best quality possible.

The KnoWorld Maze sets itself to the proper resolution.

The Web-Maze will have 1380×768 resolution for all images.

If the above notes were about images, movies are somewhat different. If you want full screen movies you need High Definition movies (1920×1080). If you want “Television Movies” – they are smaller, so you can pick even YouTube movies.

11. Adding a Holodeck Set to a Scene

In order for a scene to be “played” as a simulation, you will need to pick a suitable set from our holodeck sets library. A list of all sets and a snapshot of each is here:

The following example shows how the name “Whole Igloo” is entered for the slide’s name.


Don’t confuse the name of the set with what you will see on the Media Wall. The picture you see in the slide is what the media wall within the set will show as a background image: Here is the “Whole Igloo” holodeck set:


and here is the same set from a different perspective with the Media Wall showing:


Once the holodeck set is defined (assuming you want to use the holodeck) and you have a base image for the Media Wall’s first slide, you can add a “hotspot”. Here is an example:

12. Adding a HotSpot (An interactive zone)

First you need to load a background image (base image) as explained in item 10.

Assume you want to have the sailor sitting in the following picture to say something. You could place a “HotSpot” around his head, so when the user clicks on it something happen. Here are the possible mdeia you can assign t a hotsopt:

  • text bubble
  • “talking head”: an animated or video clip of a head that uses either recorded audio or text to speech (computer generated voice from a textual resource). The easiest way to produce a talking head is to use a software called “Crazy Talk“. Crazy Talk is not free (about $50 for education), but has a free trial version and is strongly recommended. Crazy Talk has a built-in Text to Speech option. The format for talking heads is like video files: .mov (QuickTime Movie). See the “Add Media” item (17) for some technical assistance with media tools and formats.
  • voice file
  • pop-up image
  • new background image (a new slide)
  • video file in a TV like window
  • video that will play on the whole screen

13. Once you load a background image, you click on the image to add a hotspot. You can change the hotspot’s size by shift-drag it’s bottom right corner. You can move the hotspot on the screen by “dragging” it (click, hold and move the mouse).

14. The “Event”.

Each click creates and “event” (Caution: if you double click on the image, you will get two ovelapping events. It will confuse you and you will see two event windows. Close one using the closing window button, until you will feel more skilled). Here is an example of one hotspot and one event:



15. Loading Content
Let’s assume you want to add a text bubble. Your first task is to decide if you want the bubble to appear after the user clicks on the sailor’s head or if you want the text bubble to be presented to the user with the background image. That is determined by the first item on the event window. You need to pick from the drop down menu either option: “Load Content on Click” or “Automatically Load Content”.

16. Bubble Text

Pick “Bubble Text” from the second item and a text entry line appears. Input the text you want to show in the bubble, pick the font size and click on “Show Area #1 Bubble”. By “area # 1” we mean “the hotsopt named as Area # 1”.


You can move the bubble around the screen and you can change its size and shape. To move and resize use the same method as moving and resizing the hotspot (line 13). To change the shape of the bubble, each click on the “Change Image” button (on the bubble, so make sure you clicked “Show Area #1 Bubble” to see it) will produce another shape. Circle thorough the shapes untill you find the one you like:


17. Adding a media file

Here are some recommended programs you can use to produce or convert audio and video files for the Second Life Maze. While the Real Maze supports many forms of video, SL Maze supports only .mov (QuickTime) format. In order for a movie to play in SL Maze, you will need to produce it as a QuickTime movie (many video editing software packages support this format) or convert it from one of the many formats QuickTime can import.

Here is a list of some software tools and conversion guidance for using movies in the SL Maze:

QuickTime Pro: License cost ~ $30 – for converting to .mov (see below).

Crazy Talk 5.1 – As mentioned before in item 14

Audacity – for sound editing (free)

Text Aloud – for Text to Speech production (~$30)

Cucusoft YouTube Mate (~$25) – for downloading and converting YouTube Movies.

17a. How to produce talking heads:

In CrazyTalk produce file:

YouTube, AVI

Open with QuickTime Pro and export as:

17b. How to rip audio that’s playing on the computer

Use Audacity

Make sure the “sound” “recording” in the control panel is directed to the digital card or device (not microphone or line in).
Set the Audacity “preferences” “reconding” to “stereo” and the same device as in the control panel.
Start recording
Start playing any player

18. Embedding a video file (a talking head is also a video file) into the Media Wall

Create an event as you did in item 16.

Click on the little arrow next to the “No Media” drop down menu

Your options are:

  • Full screen video
  • Television video
  • Soundtrack

To show a video file in a TV like window, select that option and  select a video file (similar to loading a picture in item 10). Click on “Show TV”. The TV video screen can be placed anywhere on the screen by dragging (similar to placing the text bubble in item 16).


19. Adding an “inset image”

An inset image is a picture in a picture like this:


You can add hotspots on inset images, you can make inset images appear automatically or dependent on the user’s click.

Once an inset image is on the screen, you can add hotspots to the inset image only. If you want to add hotspots to the main background image, you need to hide the inset image (Save) before you can do that. You can alway return and edit the inset image later on.

20. Deicsion Points

Each “Task” in the story (there are up to 8 tasks) ends with a decision making task in which the team is presented with a problem and needs to pick together one agreed course of action (or solution) out of maximum of 4 alternatives. To do that, they have a decision support system. The following is what the author need to do in order to define it.

Decision Points are different in the Second Life Maze from the Real Maze, although the decision definition is the same and the content is compatible.

20.a. Decision Point at the Real Maze

20.a.1. Here is an example of what the users will see when getting to the decision task:


20.a.2. What you see are 4 decision panels, each for a team member. Let’s zoom-in on one of them:


The question the team has to make a decision about in this example is taken from the Canadian heritage of World War II. The scene deals with a group of under aged Canadian students in 1939 when Canada joins the war, having to decide among the following alternative courses of action:

  1. Lie about their age and join
  2. Wait to be recruited
  3. Join the home front and help until drafted
  4. Do nothing

We see 4 gauges, each gauge represents an alternative solution or course of action.

20.a.3. Clicking on each “set” button (above the gauge) opens up this window:


Now the user has to slide the sliders, each representing a criterion, and evaluate the alternative in focus (in this example “Lie About Your Age and Join”) while the criteria are:

  • Good of the country
  • Good for me
  • Social fairness
  • Good for my family

20.a.4. In case the users want more information in order to make an educated decision, they have at their disposal the knowledge tab (the down arrow above the vertical center line).


Clicking on this tab opens up a window with a drop down menu with a list of previously prepared questions that add some additional facts, like:

  • What happens if I get caught cheating?
  • Will I be able to pick my assignment?
  • How many soldiers we know have done it in WWII?


The answers are presented in a similar fashion to the Media Wall: Talking heads, video files, pictures, sound files or any combination of the above.

20a5. When all team members are done they click on “Team Sync” and get the calculated result:


They can select (by clicking on it) the highest scored alternative course of action, or any other one. Specific feedback to each selection is presented to them and they are pointed at the next scene’s Media Wall.

20.b. Decision Point in the SL Maze

To learn how Decision Points are presented in the SL Maze, you will need to read: how-to-visit-knoworld.

21. Creating and Editing Decision Points

The DP (Decision Point) editor is accessible from the Story Time line (see item 2). You need to have a Task defined so go to the Story Timeline and pick “Add Task”. You will see the following:


Click on “Decision Station” and on the “Main Decision Page” you will get pick “Add Alternative” and “Add Criteria” to get the following:


Add up tp 4 alternatives and all 4 criteria.

21.a. Adding an Alternative:


  • Enter the “Label” that will appear on the gauge (see item 20.a).
  • Enter the Description for that alternative that will appear at the evaluation window (20.a.3).
  • Enter the video that will be shown (as TV Video) in case that alternative is selected by the team as the preferred course of action.
  • Pick the aspect ratio from the menu (4:3 is old TV; 16:9 is wide screen TV)

21.b Adding Criteria

Enter the Criterion Name

Select the weigh of that criterion by sliding the slider (it will change color). Some criteria are more important than others.

Select the Polarity of this criterion: Standard means left low / right high; Reversed means to opposite. (i.e if we are trying to pick a car to buy from 4 alternatives we like, Fuel Consumption will be “Reversed” – the less the better; Safety would be “Standard” – the more the better).


22. Adding knowledge items to Decision Points (20.a.4)


Just add the questions that will show on the drop-down menu (as in 20.a.4) and edit the slide (as you would in any Media Wall slide – see item 8) that will provide the answer.

23. Testing Your Story

At any time you can select “Story Testing” to test the Task you are on.


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